William King's Grief
It has been over week since our last post. That is due to the fact that we have been at the cabin without internet access.
This past week I feel like I was finally able to focus my energy on writing a little bit. Currently, I am at my mom's house in Clearfield. Chrissie is at Ligonier with the three oldest for a school overnight trip. I am here in Clfd with Stella at "Grandma Camp." Yesterday was full of business and stress of dealing with some aspects of my fathers estate (which I had put on the back burner for quite some time.) I got nothing else done. It highlighted the beauty of sabbatical. It really does help you to focus on a particular task when you are able to set aside the regular responsibilities. One of my prayer requests is to consider how I can build time for reading and writing more into my schedule on a regular basis when I return to full time ministry.
Today I am holed away in a back room of my mom's house reading the autobiography of William King. He is a remarkable man, and the text that I am reading is apparently unpublished. His handwritten manuscript was typed by someone and made available on a website from the Canadian national library. It is surprisingly well written, but the text is difficult to read. I would guess that only a handful of people have ever read through this. That is a shame and something that I hope will eventually change. Today I was reading the section in his autobiography in which he writes about the death of his wife and daughter. (His son had died less than two years earlier.) It was particularly moving, and I thought I should post the text here.
I don't understand the medical terminology, but I was touched by the faith of a man who wrestled with profound loss and yet found hope in the resurrection. Here we have the voice of a human being who experienced enormous grief, and dealt honestly with his sorrows. And yet, he saw hope in the gospel and pressed on to do the work that God had for him. I also noticed the supportive role that the community in his grief - something that I have personally experienced in the past year.
"Towards the end of the first year after we arrived in Edinburgh [for Seminary], my wife gave birth to a daughter. After the birth of the child my wife showed some signs of consumption. She went out one night in November to hear Dr. Chalmers, who was to preach in West Fort and Baptize our child. The evening was damp and chilly. I brought her home from the church in a cab. The next day she complained of being unwell and coughed a little. I sent for Doctor Simpson who came at once to see her. On examining her case, he told me that she had consumption and that she would not live. Both lungs were affected, and she might probably live until spring. I asked if a change of climate would not do her good. He informed me it would be of no use because she was too far advanced in the disease to recover. The only thing that could be done was to nurse her well and keep her warm.
I got a wet nurse to take care of her and the child. Sir James Simpson visited her regularly, giving her such medicine as would alleviate pain. It was a great comfort for me to know that she was a decided Christian and had a saving interest in Christ. During her long painful illness she fully sustained the Christian character, while a lingering consumption wasted away her frame. Each succeeding day witnessed the gradual waning of life. Her mind continued to be calm and her faith was firm in her Redeemer. The triumph of her faith was clear in the last dark hour, enabling her in a peculiar manner to exemplify the Christian life by the Christian death. On the 25th of February 1846 she fell asleep in Jesus.
...The death of my wife was a severe trail to me, as I was finishing my theological studies in the college and preparing for my final examination, but I was greatly comforted by the sympathy and Christian kindness of the Professors and students of the college. They attended the funeral in a body and Dr. Chalmers conducted the funeral service.
After the death of my wife my whole affection was placed on the child now left. She was the last of my family and the very image of her mother. Her playful innocence had drawn my affection strongly towards her. On my return from class she would stretch out her arms as soon as she saw me enter the door. She would leave her nurse and come to me and was quite contented when she got on my knee.
But God, who had given her to me as a pledge of our mutual love, was soon to take her to Himself forever to be with her mother in heaven. My work was not yet done - I was to remain a while longer on earth to finish the work that he had given me to do. My family had all gone before me. I will follow in the appointed time when we shall meet again in a land where death never comes, and where there is no sorrow, and where there is no separation.
My child who had been growing well with her wet nurse was take suddenly with "Hydrocephalus" or "water in the head" and died on the ninth day of May. All that the best medical skill could do for her was done, but it was of no avail. From the time that the child was taken from me she had one convulsive fit after another until she expired. Dr. Chalmers again performed the funeral service and went with me to Leist cemetery where the child was laid in the same grave with her mother - to lie until the morning of the resurrection when they shall both rise together.
After the death of my child - the last of my family - I was left alone. Dr. Chalmers kindly invited me to call upon him frequently without any ceremony and breakfast with him..."
- From the autobiography of Rev. William King, p58-60, sections 193-199.
Matt Koerber is the senior pastor at City Reformed Presbyterian church. This is his personal blog that he also asks guest writers to participate on.